Financial burden falls on county
By Emily Bialkowski
Houston County has again been socked with a criminally-related bill to the tune of $1,250.
Assistant County Attorney Araysa Ashmore asked the county board for the funds after receiving a letter from the Hennepin County Attorney on the possible civil commitment of an individual serving time for a 2009 conviction for criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.
This individual was also arrested on a 2010 sexual assault that occurred in La Crosse County.
Because this individual last resided in La Crescent, it is the responsibility of Houston County to pay for an evaluation under the sexual psychopathic personality and sexually dangerous person statutes.
“Even though the offenses occurred in La Crosse and Hennepin Counties they don’t count that at residency,” Ashmore said.
Ashmore explained that an expert panel will evaluate this individual’s condition and consider him for civil commitment at a facility designed to handle such individuals.
“He’ll be getting out of prison, and we need an assessment for whether or not he will present as a dangerous individual,” Ashmore said.
She asked the money be appropriated to her department because these situations rarely occur and funds have not been set aside to cover such expenses.
“It is imperative to make sure this person is well enough to be in the community,” Ashmore said, adding, “We don’t get many of these. I’ve been here since 2008 and this is the first one I’ve seen.”
The board pressed back asking if there wasn’t another line item in the department’s budget that could be moved to cover the expense.
“You should look to see if there’s some funds somewhere like unused mileage or other funds,” Commissioner Tom Bjerke said.
Commissioner Jack Miller echoed the sentiment saying, “Check that out and come back to us.”
Ashmore agreed and admitted that as the assistant county attorney she does not manage the county attorney’s budget.
In other business, the board agreed to hire several 67 day temporary employees and an information systems network technician.
Jeremiah Shaver will begin work Oct. 15 at a rate of $19.72 per hour as a network technician.
It is a half-time position and includes a $30 per month stipend for cellular phone use.
Shaver will help man the help desk and competed with five other qualified candidates.
Human Resources Director Tess Arrick-Kruger said Shaver comes from Trane, who outsourced their information technology division.
In the sheriff’s department, four 67 day temporary jailer/dispatchers were approved at a cost of $18.44 per hour.
The employees will be placed on a roster for coverage when others are out due to vacation or illness, Arrick Kruger said.
They include Travis Good, Kelsey Connor, Brandon Meiners and Tyler Heiden. A total of nine candidates applied.
Miller questioned the necessity after considering other departments do not have back-ups for absences.
Arrick-Kruger said the overtime costs the county would incur without back-up jailer/dispatchers outweighs the expense to have them.
The jail is also a 24/7 operation and requires more help than an average county department.
With that, a motion was made to approve the hires.
• The county board held a quick discussion with Human Services Director Linda Bahr about upcoming software issues the county may face. Should the state upgrade their software, it would behoove the county to do so as well and prepare for that expense.
The human services department continues to research ways they may share services with other neighboring counties, Bahr said.
• The board entered into closed session for half hour to discuss litigation between the county and Minnesota Sands. The issue is related to sand mining on property owned by Tracie and Michelle Erickson.
• The state’s two million deficit was brought up as the board discussed various budgeting issues. Don’t expect any budget relief via the state was the message.
• A box culvert replacement project was approved on Perkins Valley Road.
Contact Emily Bialkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.